Hannah Holman
Quad-City Symphony Orchestra cellist Hannah Holman Contributed photo

Whether or not Mark Russell Smith and the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra realized it, they’re giving Hannah Holman a belated 40th birthday present.

Holman, the principal cellist with the symphony, will solo on Antonin Dvorak’s “Cello Concerto” during two symphony performances next weekend.

“It’s the piece that everybody dreams to get a chance to play with an orchestra,” she said. “I’m very lucky.

“It’s of the biggest pieces, and the fact that it’s a cello concerto on top of that is a fringe benefit.”

Holman was approached by QCSO conductor and music director Smith, asking whether she was interested in performing the Dvorak work.

It may have been written in the period the Czech composer spent in Spillville, Iowa, during 1893, she said.

“Even though it’s a concerto, it’s one of the last symphonic pieces he’d written,” she said. “I don’t think he thought a cello concerto could work.”

Holman calls the piece autobiographical. Dvorak was in love with one of his students, but she got married and Dvorak eventually married her sister. While in Iowa, he received word that his sister-in-law had died.

“The last 60 bars of the piece are almost like a farewell. It’s a deeply moving piece,” Holman said.

A Michigan native, she is a third-generation cellist who plays the instrument of her grandmother, her first teacher. Her father, who later became a dentist, was a cellist, as were her three younger siblings. (She is the only one who became a professional musician.)

“We had to have a big car,” she said.

She has been a lecturer and performer with the Maia Quartet, an artist-in-residence at the University of Iowa, for eight years. She is also the principal cellist with the Cedar Rapids Symphony.

Holman began her professional career in England and eventually played with several symphonies in the United States, including Richmond, Va., where her conductor was Smith.

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